All About Evil

kill game 2018

KILL GAME

2.5 Stars  2018/102m

“No one is laughing now.”

Director/Writer: Robert Mearns / Cast: Sari Sanchez, Michael Galante, Joe Adler, Pierson Fode, Tommy Beardmore, Laura Ashley Samuels, Hilary Anderson, Patrick Zielinski.

Body Count: 11


Some spoilers. Five old friends, who plagued their high school with pranks, attend the funeral of another friend and soon after discover that somebody from their past is fucking with them, ordering a stack of pizzas, removing the battery from a car, sending a sex worker over… Which of their old gag victims could it be?

A seventh friend, jittery walking pharmacy Beth, returns to town and is immediately tracked down by hunky Liam, the estranged twin brother of Brendan, who died years before as a result of a prank gone wrong, which had been masterminded by the recently buried friend. Liam wants to know what happened to his brother, but the seven of them never told a soul.

kill game 2018 joe adler

Thanks to horny cop Blake, the group learn their dead friend was most definitely murdered and via the medium of handy flashback we see him hoisted upside down, naked, over a fire pit, which is lit by a cloaked, Marilyn Monroe-masked killer, who looks like they could go to prom with the cherub from Valentine.

The friends start to reach out to old prank victims and apologise, but Marilyn has other ideas and straps one of the gang to a chair, giving her a blood transfusion from a dead stag in payment for a joke where she’d forged a doctor’s note that informed a nerdy girl she was infected with HIV. Another is burned alive, and one has their tummy tuck procedure fatally crashed by the killer, who also offs the surgical staff.

kill game 2018 hilary anderson

The dwindling group find themselves back at the beach where Brendan died for a big showdown, which is crashed by the cops before we can get answers.

So who is the killer? Well, Kill Game can’t quite seem to make up its mind, though we get a good scene where Beth wakes up in a hospital staffed by several of the prank victims who begin descending on her like zombies. But that’s a dream.

Instead, the actual killer is revealed in the final shot and is someone who has barely appeared in the film at all. Eagle-eyed viewers may recall them from a couple of earlier scenes, but so fleeting are these appearances that it literally may as well have been an old granny or someone who sped by in a car.

And what the hell was supposed to be in that box?

kill game 2018

I see what Kill Game was trying to do here, a grand exercise in misdirection, but instead it kinda just trips you up, having lead you down a blind alley to nowhere for the previous 100 minutes. Personally, I didn’t mind, but I can also envision a few bricks being hurled at screens. As far as I Know What You Did Last Summer/At Camp/At High School/At My Cousin’s Barmitzvah/That Day at IHOP opuses go, it’s fine. Shot in 2014.

Blurb-of-interest: Michael Galante was in Frat House Massacre.

*GASP!* It’s You!

Being attacked in a car once again, here we find Nancy Stephens – Nurse Marion from the original Halloween (plus II, H20 and Kills) – as a mother out to pick up her son from school in 1979’s TV movie Death Car on the Freeway, when she honks at THE WRONG MOTORIST, a loon known as the Freeway Fiddler, who loves nothing more than ramming young female drivers off of LA’s highways, while playing hideous bluegrass fiddle music from an external speaker.

nancy stephens death car on the freeway 1979

The unseen fiend slams on the brakes when she tries to get by, and she gets caught up on his tow bar and then dragged down the freeway, while the cops give chase. It’s not clear if she survives the accident, but I hope she lived to collect her son.

Candy King

candyman 2021

CANDYMAN

3.5 Stars  2021/15/91m

“Say it.”

Director/Writer: Nia DaCosta / Writers: Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld / Cast: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, Vanessa Williams, Rebecca Spence, Kyle Kaminsky, Michael Hargrove.

Body Count: 17

Laughter Lines: “Ain’t a dick on the planet good enough to offset a demonology hobby.”


Look up the user reviews for this on IMDb and you’ll see all manner of people declaring it the worst thing they’ve ever seen, calling it racist because “only white people die!!!11!1!” (not true if you pay attention), without commenting on any other facet – there’s no reflection on the aesthetics, the production design, the direction, the acting: All of which are top drawer. Some spoilers follow.

I can’t be the only person sick of hearing people call anything and everything at odds with their worldview ‘woke’. It’s become the new term for conservative-leaning types to bulldoze the things they see as left aside without having to justify their judgement. I’ll be writing something else about this and how it relates to slasher films at some point, but it carries some weight with the new Candyman film because, if we’re alert and aware enough to appreciate the origins of what woke means, it has its place here.

candyman 2021

We haven’t seen hide nor hair of Daniel Robitaille since 1999s rather dismal Day of the Dead and, following his recent success with Get Out and Us, Jordan Peele’s involvement with slasherdom’s only prolific black killer seems perfectly timed. But what to do? Unlike most of his brethren (save for Freddy), it’s not easy to just recast the role of an undead, and thus un-aged, mythical blood-shedder, so what to do without Tony Todd…

Conveniently to the plot, time changes everything, including Cabrini Green, which has been gentrified, and is home to artist Anthony and his art dealer girlfriend Brianna. It’s no real secret from the get-go that Anthony is the grown-up baby abducted by Candyman in the 1992 movie. Brianna’s brother Troy shares with them the legend of Helen Lyle, who is locally remembered as a madwoman who tried to kill the child.

candyman 2021

Intrigued by this but unaware he is said child, Anthony explores what remains of the projects and meets one of the few remaining residents, William Burke, who tells him about the legend of Candyman, however in this telling, the hook-handed one was a rather harmless eccentric named Sherman Fields who, in the 70s, gave out candy to the local kids. When a white girl found a razor blade inside a sweet, the cops blamed Sherman, who went into hiding inside the walls of the apartments. A young Burke encountered him one day, screamed, alerting the cops, and they beat the man to death.

Anthony is galvanized by the concept raised around the subject of gentrification and racial injustice. His work at a gallery show draws condescending dismissal from snobby critic, Finley. Yet when the letchy gallery owner and his intern say ‘Candyman’ five times into the mirror that makes up part of Anthony’s piece, they’re hooked to death and suddenly the artist’s work is getting attention, much to the concern of Brianna, who found the bodies and pretty much inherits the running of the gallery.

candyman 2021 Teyonah Parris Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Finley is murdered next when she invites Anthony over to ‘reassess’ his work and he dares her to summon up Candyman; Then a group of high school girls try it out in a campus bathroom. Unravelling, Anthony visits his mom (Vanessa Williams, reprising her role and looking only a few months older than she did in ’92) to find out the truth surrounding Helen Lyle and Candyman. Brianna is also trying to find him and tracks his movements to the laundromat where he met Burke, where she is abducted and forced to watch while Burke transforms a honeycomb-skinned Anthony into the next Candyman, rapidly explaining that he witnessed his own sister slain by the ghost of Sherman Fields, and understands Candyman ‘recruits’ black men killed by white systemic violence.

The final twenty minutes or so of Candyman seems rushed and murky. I had to look up an explanation of the climax and then watch it back to make sense of it. Burke’s flashback seemed shoehorned in without a clear transition between the scenes. The same goes for the threads surrounding Brianna and Troy’s artist father – it’s left curiously unresolved (for now at least) and made me wonder if the cutting room floor was full of extra material that would have fleshed out these strands and tied things up a little more neatly.

candyman 2021 bathroom scene

Where is Tony Todd, you caw? Fear not, he appears, seemingly as the grandmaster of the ‘Candymen’ so to speak. As the residents of Cabrini, before it was demolished, put a moratorium on the mention of his name, he ceased to exist as a legend until Burke succeeded in recruiting Anthony back into the fold, making him the most recent avatar for the story to continue and spread. It’s fiendishly clever and evil on Candyman’s part (kinda reminded me of Freddy using Jason to kill in Springwood so that he would be recalled to mind).

DaCosta’s direction is heavy on mood, with a truly unsettling opening credits that reverses the overview of Chicago to an underview, where we’re forced to look up, and the use of shadow puppetry is a great aesthetic. There’s also an appealing lead in Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony, and a refreshingly without-comment depiction of a gay couple in Brianna’s brother Troy and his boyfriend Grady, also allowing one of my favourite lines when the latter suggests they try the Candyman chant at the art show, to which Troy quips: “Black people don’t need to be summoning shit!”

candyman 2021 shadow puppets

So what about all the ‘racism’ then? Sigh. I’d say to those people crowing about it that they need to consider films one to three were told through the lenses of white characters, specifically white women haunted by Candyman, and now the perspective has shifted to be seen from black characters. And that’s about it. Yes, most (but not all) of the victims are white, but it’s not as if the black characters come out of things unscathed in any way: The film’s major villain is black FFS! In short, the type of people overusing the term ‘woke’ to object to things they don’t like just need to get the fuck over themselves and, while they’re at it, choke on the fact that it made bank. Gimme those sequels.

Harlow-een

texas chainsaw massacre 2022

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE

3 Stars  2022/81m

“The face of madness returns.”

Director: David Blue Garcia / Writers: Chris Thomas Devlin, Fede Alvarez & Rodo Sayagues / Cast: Sarah Yarkin, Elsie Fisher, Mark Burnham, Jacob Latimore, Moe Dunford, Nell Hudson, Olwen Fouéré, Jessica Allain, Alice Kriger, William Hope.

Body Count: 18+

Laughter Lines: “Wish I’d known y’all were coming – I’d have put my face on.”


A friend asked me what horror film I was watching next. “Texas Chainsaw Massacre“, said I. “The old one?” I took a breath to answer, then had to stop as I tried to unravel what film this new one was.

As I understand it, there’s the original, it’s three 80s-90s sequels, the remake, the prequel to the remake, another sequel to the original that ignores the existing ones, a prequel to the original, and now this ‘requel’. Had it been released before Scream (2022), it might have escaped much of the ridicule that greeted its release. Some spoilers.

texas chainsaw massacre 2022 elsie fisher sarah yarkin nell hudson jacob latimore

Shooting began in Bulgaria in 2020 but the original director was turfed out, his footage scrapped entirely, and replaced by David Blue Garcia. A planned big-screen release was called off and the film ended up debuting on Netflix to a tidal wave of “worst film ever!!1!” criticism, primarily for its heavy pilfering from the 2018 Halloween requel.

Despite this less than promising start in life, TCM ’22 is an unrelenting 81-minute rapid-fire gorefest, spending about twenty minutes conjuring up the set-up: A quartet of city Gen-Z types arrive in the ghost town of Harlow, Texas, which they’ve …bought? (“Gentrifuckers!” complains a local). In the wake of their self-driving Tesla will be a coach of young entrepreneurs, with a view to turning the place into a mecca of artisan bakeries, restaurants, and art galleries for city life ex-patriots. Oddly, a similar subject was touched on in 2021’s Candyman re-whatever.

texas chainsaw massacre 2022

Upon arrival, they discover the sole remaining residents – an infirm orphanage owner and her last charge, a hulking figure who hangs back in the shadows: I think we can all guess who that is. A dispute over her right to be there results in her having a heart attack and being carted off by the sheriff. Mystery-companion goes along, as well as one of the newcomers. When the old woman expires in the back of the van, he flips, kills the deputy and causes the van to crash in a field.

In what is probably the film’s best scene, the surviving passenger Ruth (Nell Hudson), witnesses the wackadoo remove the face from the dead lady and don it for himself. She plays dead when he investigates his mess, and tries to track him through the wing mirrors while contemplating her escape.

texas chainsaw massacre 2022 sarah yarkin

Back in town, the bus of investors rolls in, occupying the attention of lead …town …buyers (?) Dante and Melody. Melody’s younger sister Lila, a survivor of a school shooting, doesn’t want to be there and goes off exploring on her own. Upon hearing that the old lady has died, grizzled local contractor Richter confiscates the car and bus keys until Melody and Dante can prove they legally own the orphanage, and didn’t just kick the poor woman out, causing her death. They look for certificate in the house, coinciding with the return of Leatherface, who makes quick work of Dante, while Melody hides from him.

A storm sets in and the investors take their party back aboard the bus while Melody is accosted in a tense scene, culminating in a sewage pipe being cut open and leaking on to her head. Saved by Lila, the sisters race back to the bus and a scene that rivals the raft moment from The Burning ensues as Leatherface clambers aboard – and the Gen-Z’s raise their phones and threaten to cancel him.

texas chainsaw massacre 2022 bus

What unfolds pretty much sums up the franchise’s title: A good 15-20 people are buzzed to pieces by the world’s most fuel-economic chainsaw, with just Melody and Lila able to escape through a skylight. As they scramble for escape, in rolls a truck and out climbs Sally Hardesty – survivor from the original, who has been waiting for almost fifty years to face down Leatherface. Like Laurie. She brings a shotgun and a ‘fuck it’ attitude. Like Laurie. She stalks him back to the orphanage, ordering him to ‘say her name’, under some illusion that after a couple of hours with her half a century earlier, he’d have any idea who she even is. I imagined he was way too busy trying to work out which timeline he’s in.

Ultimately, Sally flops and she’s chainsawed to fuck before being able to be of much help to the girls, who then go through the standard motions to the end, with the suspiciously insensitive caveat of Lila having to use the very thing she fears – a gun – to defend herself. The NRA presents the Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

texas chainsaw massacre 2022 sally

Early whiplash reviews were overwhelmingly negative, crammed with the usual “IT’S WOKE!!1!” accusations. But is it? The hipster-esque characters are all portrayed as negative stereotypes, with the redneck white guy turning out to be something of an almost-hero, all the non-white characters meeting grisly ends… If anything, the film goes all out to satirise so-called ‘woke tropes’. Much of this is enabled by strange attempts at comedy peppered throughout, the threat of cancellation met with instant death-by-powertool could not possibly underscore this any more powerfully – and yet, thick people everywhere continue to whine that progressive propaganda is being forced down their throats. A grisly last-second shock is lashed to a gag with the Tesla, is almost slapstick, giving the whole thing a gory cartoon value.

texas chainsaw massacre 2022

Let’s just ignore the fact that all-powerful, nimble Leatherface must be, minimum, in his late sixties.

There’s a lot wrong with it, but it somehow manages in spite of itself, with nice photography and some familiar but effective sequences in the first half.

Blurb-of-interest: Sarah Yarkin was in Happy Death Day 2U.

Sail into danger

sneekweek 2016

SNEEKWEEK

3 Stars  2016/113m

A.k.a. Summer Party Massacre; Scream Week

Director: Martijn Heijne / Writer: Alex van Galen / Cast: Carolien Spoor, Jelle de Jong, Jord Knotter, Holly Brood, Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing, Sanne Langelaar, David Lucieer, Jonas De Vuyst, Ferry Doedens, Frank Lammers, Kimberly Klaver, Diederik Ebbinge.

Body Count: 11


So, Sneekweek is actually a real thing: Held in the Netherlands and billed as Europe’s biggest sailing festival, it becomes the rather unlikely backdrop for this Dutch slasher, which was released in two versions during its theatrical run – one of which was edited to attract a younger audience.

Despite a scene in which characters watch Scream on TV (and complaining it has been dubbed), this has more common ground with I Know What You Did Last Summer. Five college kids are hazing a group of young men for a room in their much sought-after house by keeping them in a tub, dumping ice in and seeing who can last the longest with the least amount of genital shrinkage. Down to two guys, the girls’ favourite, Eric, loses consciousness and dies. Anxious for their futures, they cover it up, bribe the surviving pledge, Peter, with an offer of the room if he stays quiet, and call an ambulance once it’s too late and they’ve papered over the evidence.

sneekweek 2016

Two years later, the six roomies hit Sneekweek, which appears more to resemble Spring Break, with lots of EDM-screaming club nights, fairground rides, sexy young folks posing, and a police commissioner clucking around ordering his minimal force to break up fights and keep the peace.

Boarding in an arty, secluded lakeside house, the first sign that something’s off is that none of them own up to being the one who found the rental. Nominal heroine Merel is first to see a figure in a shiny silver mask, but the others think she’s off her face and continue to bed-hop until one of them is attacked outside a club and Peter is arrested when he finds her. The next morning, Merel finds him hanging from the boat’s mast in an apparent suicide. The local cops are keen to flex their investigative muscle, but are sidelined by their boss, and the remaining teens ordered to stick around until the attacker is caught.

sneekweek 2016

Nasty ringleader Boris insists the party go on, so blasts into town with two of the other, leaving Merel and her friend to find the body of a missing girl in the boatshed. Despite commenting on Scream, the girls have learned nothing and decide to split up – one to go to the cops, the other to find their friends.

Another murder occurs and the police arrest Eric’s unhinged mother, who cut and run from her clinic’s day release. They also place the remaining kids on an available yacht for the night in an effort to keep them safe, but ultimately just leave them in a barrel ready to be picked off by the powertool-favouring killer, who leaves a spinning powerdrill in the back of one and engineers another to be sucked into the propellers.

sneekweek 2016 carolien spoor

Sneekweek fudges cloaking the identity of the killer effectively enough, giving a little too much away too early on, just leaving a question over who they’ll be to the late Eric that drove them to get power-saw themed vengeance. It also doesn’t deliver much in the way of gruesome demises, with the nastiest character we’ve been waiting to see cark it allocated a rather dull kill scene, although there’s a reason for that revealed during the exposition scene.

A decent enough film with high end production gloss that should set it apart from most of its ilk, despite suffering from predictability and a reliance on some dumb character behaviour (at one point Merel runs away from the safety of the house and into a cornfield). Very similar to Austrian flick Party Hard, Die Young that came along two years later.

sneekweek 2016 ferry doedens holly brood

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